Does John 3:16 Really Get You?

John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”) is rightly such awell-known and loved verse. In some ways it summarises the whole of the Bible. But there may be more meaning in it than you have realised, because it says –

For”, not meaning ‘because’ but meaning ‘in this way’, ‘thus’, ‘like this’, ‘as follows’. So it could well be translated as “God loved the world in this way”;

And it was “the world” that God loved, but here and some other times in John’s Gospel “the world” means people in rebellion against God (3:16-19; 7:7; 12:31, 47; 16:33). So John 3:16 isn’t just saying that God loved people or the planet, but that he loved those who had spurned him and were his enemies! Wow. What amazing love that is;

… that he gave his one and only Son”. God “gave” his Son: gave him to the world the Incarnation) but particularly gave him over to death for our sins (The Atonement). The ‘giving’ was the greatest way of giving there could be. And it was his “one and only” or ‘unique’ Son who was given: he is special, unique, one-of-a-kind. Who God gave is one of the reasons why his gift is so amazing;

that whoever believes in him”, and here (and elsewhere in John) ‘believing’ means not just mental assent about some facts but also an active placing of trust in God’s Son. This ultimately means believing God’s word that those who trust in Christ’s death for their sins are right with God;

shall not perish but have eternal life” presents the stark contrast in outcomes of either believing or being unbelieving. These are the only two possibilities; there is no ‘middle-ground’, no ‘fence-sitting’. The outcome for all can be avoiding destruction and hell (be ‘lost’, ‘perish’, ‘be ruined’) by having “eternal life”. But eternal life isn’t just life after death, it begins now, because this phrase doesn’t just refer to a length of life but also quality of life: life knowing God (cf. 1 John 5:11-13).

So … John 3:16 — do you truly get the meaning, and does that meaning get you excited and thankful and left in awe of our great God?

Cameron

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